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Mully & Hanley: Just sportswriters doing what sportswriters do
By Ted Cox | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 7/24/2008 2:07 PM

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It's all too rare when good things happen to good people, especially in sports media, so permit a fellow ink-stained wretch to cheer the elevation of Mike Mulligan and Brian Hanley to morning-drive hosts at WSCR 670-AM.

They've been doing the morning-midday shift for three years at the Score, and Hanley goes back beyond that to the early days of the all-sports station as a weekend and fill-in host.

Yet they're still primarily sportswriters, and I have enough regard for their work to admit they toil for the competing Sun-Times. (Otherwise I'd fudge it, suggesting they spend their afternoons on the veranda calling on the help to bring another julep and fan a little faster.) They're also natural conversationalists, and they do a great, no-nonsense - well, make that not much nonsense - sports talk show on radio.

So when the Score couldn't reach an agreement with Mike North to extend his contract, the station made the decision, formally announced earlier this week, to move Mully & Hanley to morning drive.

"I love talking sports," Mulligan says. "When people say, 'How are you going to write for a paper? How are you going to do a sports show? And how are you going to watch the games?' My response is, 'Do you know any sportswriters? That's pretty much what we do.' "

Look, I wouldn't blame North for feeling just a bit jobbed at the Score. He didn't look to move to morning drive, although he made sure he got paid for it when he did. Then he was encouraged to talk politics and entertainment with the addition of Anne Maxfield.

He wound up losing to ESPN Radio's syndicated tandem of Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic on WMVP 1000-AM, and now the Score has made the decision to hunker down with local sports in the morning to lead the day for Mike Murphy and Dan Bernstein and Terry Boers. The thing is, I can't blame the Score for making that decision either.

"To try to be Mike North, that's an impossibility," Hanley says. "He's totally an American story unto himself. But I wouldn't try to be Dan and Terry. I wouldn't try to be Murph. We all bring our own backgrounds and experiences. Mully and me, what we bring is being sportswriters and having a different take on it. We both grew up here. We have our different affinities - Sox fan, Cubs fan."

"We can't do what North was doing," Mulligan says. "I don't know what he was doing in terms of talking politics and entertainment. We are going to be a sports-driven show. We are sportswriters. Our area of expertise is pretty much limited to the world of sports. I don't think either of us aspired to do anything other than a sports show."

Yet Mike & Mike do pretty much straight sports too, and they have ESPN's immense resources at their beck and call - including their ESPN2 simulcast. "It's pretty much basic judo, isn't it?" Mulligan says. "They're so big and so oversized. They can't actually focus on this market. They've got to please people in other markets. So we can just stick to what we know, which is the Chicago sports scene. With both baseball teams in first place and the Bears just starting, I don't see how most people would be more interested in who's moving to the East Coast and what's going on with the Patriots."

If that sounds like bold talk for a couple of scribes unschooled in radio, they know what they're getting into.

"The morning show is a whole different animal," Hanley says. "There's an energy to it. There are other elements. You've got to do traffic, weather and the things people expect."

"There's an urgency because everyone's trying to get to work," Mulligan says, "and you're trying to get from subject to subject. It's a rush, and it's an adrenaline rush."

An adrenaline rush that had better carry them through the rest of the day, given their other reporting duties.

"It's going to be a bit of a juggling act," Mulligan admits.

"Naps will be the key," Hanley adds. "As we get older, naps are the key anyway."

Yet both feel the morning schedule in the studio actually frees them more to attend practices and games later in the day - and they won't have to treat colleagues to bagels and doughnuts so often in exchange for inflicting loud remotes on them at Halas Hall and the Berto Center.

"This is all being worked out," Mulligan says. "This is fairly sudden. I don't think either of us anticipated this was going to happen. I don't think anybody at the Score anticipated this was going to happen."

Both credit their producers for easing the transition. Joe Ostrowski, who's worked with them for most of their tenure at the Score, moved with them from midday mornings to drive time. "He's been as important to our show as anybody," Mulligan says, "because we're sportswriters. We're not radio guys."

"He's our sherpa," Hanley adds. "We can read his body language. Any time you have a segment that goes on too long or maybe you shouldn't have done at all, he just gives you a look like, 'Any time you feel like doing radio, go ahead.' "

John "Rock" Mamola is the lone holdover from North's old show. "He's a really talented guy," Mulligan says. "It just seems like we keep getting stronger in terms of our production."

So, while acknowledging the additional "radio mechanics" they have to handle in morning drive, they believe they'll be able to master it and get in a rhythm that flows with their straight gigs at the paper.

"We're not reinventing the wheel," Mulligan says.

No, they're just trying to pedal it faster than ever and remain upright while balancing all the other stuff they're carrying for their day jobs.

tcox@dailyherald.com